Danes Dig Up 16th-Century Astronomer
Scientists aim to lay Tycho Brahe murder mystery to rest
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2010 5:50 AM CST
An archeologist digs to open Brahe's grave at the Church of Our Lady at the Old Town Square in Prague.   (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
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(Newser) – Danish scientists seeking to solve a 400-year-old mystery have exhumed one of the country's most celebrated astronomers for the second time. Tycho Brahe—who cataloged more than 1,000 new stars and whose observations laid the foundations for modern astronomy—died in 1601, and some suspect he was murdered, the BBC reports. One theory holds that Brahe was killed on behalf of King Christian IV; others suggest that his assistant, Johannes Kepler, murdered him to steal his work.

The last time Brahe was dug up, in 1901, tests on his facial hair discovered unusually high levels of mercury. Scientists plan to take more samples to determine whether he was killed by a single high dose of mercury, or possibly through long exposure to low levels of it, which would have happened in his sideline as an alchemist. They also plan to examine the metal prosthetic nose that the astronomer wore after losing his real one in a duel in 1566.